Friday, May 07, 2010

What with things as they are, our spending has flatlined

(Perhaps we're worried about the resource super profits tax)  

Near-continual increases in interest rates have finally hit spending.

The latest retail figures show NSW consumers actually spent less in March than December after seasonal adjustment.

The Bureau of Statistics says in trend terms our spending is falling the fastest in the nation.

Since December NSW spending at supermarkets slipped 0.9 per cent, spending on clothing 11 per cent, and spending at cafes and on takeaway food 5 per cent.

"Consumers are effectively on strike," said CommSec economist Savanth Sebastian. "They are worried about loan repayments given the relentless lift in interest rates"...

Since October the the monthly payment on a $300,000 mortgage has increased has increased $235 and the payment on a $400,000 $275.

NSW shoppers are the most exposed to interest rate increases being the most heavily mortgaged.

"The Reserve Bank might have gone one step too far," said Mr Sebastian. "Not only has retail spending gone nowhere in the first three months of this year, but annual growth has hit a nine-year low".

Deutsche Bank economist Tony Meer said spending had "basically flat-lined sine the final Rudd-drop cheques went out in May 2009."

"After May spending at first slipped, then staged a modest recovery before arguably beginning to slide again after November."

"You can see it in pricing. Once the handouts passed retail prices have been basically flat."

Not all spending slipped in the three months to March. NSW shoppers spent more on alcohol, more on furniture, shoes and cosmetics. Total spending slipped 0.9 per cent.

We also got out our cheque books for cars. Separately released industry figures show NSW residents bought 23,600 cars in April, 4000 more than the year before.

Sales of four wheel drives jumped 35 per cent.

Bureau of Statistics figures released yesterday show car imports doubled between March 2009 and March 2010, adding 775 million to Australia's monthly import bill.

Imports jumped 3 per cent in March outpacing a 2 per cent jump in exports, widening Australia's trade deficit from 1.7 billion to 2 billion.

However economists expect newly negotiated much higher prices for coal and iron ore to shrink the deficit in coming months.

"The new contract prices for coal and iron ore are massively higher," said RBS Australia economist Kieran Davies. "They will markedly improve our current account deficit, although the extra equipment brought in for the mining boom will provide some offset.

Published in today's SMH

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